Hey guys, if you or your friends have laptops or your own personal desktops, take this story to heart.
Friday - January 6, 2006
[Dom] - 00:37:00
Three days ago, I couldn't tell you the difference between a Windows MetaFile and Windows Media File, but today, I'm pretty sure that I could happily go the rest of my life without seeing the letters W, M and F in sequence again. As a note, if you're on Windows, RUN WINDOWS UPDATE NOW. I cannot stress how important this is. The security patch is absolutely essential to safe browsing. If this patch had been released earlier, I might have been saved. Don't let this happen to you!
But let's not get ahead of myself. This, like many horror stories, starts on Monday.
On Monday, I got a quick little message from Cortana linking me to a random patch thing, with no other information attached to it. So, figuring it was a link to random 4chan porn or something (which 99.9999% of the links he gives me are, really), I ignored it and continued poking around World of Warcraft, which my family got me for my birthday but I hadn't tried until I was sure I'd pretty much gotten all I could out of City of Villains (I haven't, by the way, just that I made a promise to them that I'd play it).
But then, I heard that distinct, annoying "click" that Internet Explorer makes when it feels like it has accomplished something important, which can range from "I need your confirmation to go any further!" to "I made a mess on your couch!" What was odd about it was that I only run Firefox on my machine. After poking around my windows, I saw a popunder with the cheery message that a toolbar had been installed on my computer. This, much like when I cook for myself, set off all sorts of alarms in my head that I was in terrible danger. So I ran Spybot, and Spybot declared to me that I had a whopping 215 trojans that hadn't been there before. 215. I mean, the last time that many trojans were in the same place at the same time, Greeks were pouring out of a pinata and stabbing the lot of them.
Okay, okay, so I'm trying a little too hard to be funny here. But really, what else can you do? It's a pretty bleak story, but a special gift of mine is being to step away from almost anything and find the humor in it. It's what keeps me from going insane.
Anyway, after running Spybot and Hijackthis, I ran a few cleaner programs, turned off the computer, and went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I started fighting the malware invasion, dredging up every scrap of knowledge from the brief period I was a computer scientist in college.
Which, of course, means that I sent IMs to friends of mine from college who have gone on to be software engineers. Many thanks to Cryptomancer, Sogarth and Hodge-podge for all their help, by the way, in case I forget to thank them later.
Under their remote supervision, I started systematically clearing out miscellaneous pieces of spyware and trojan horses, running countless spyware elimination programs and interpreting diagnostics. This also involved research, a lot of tinkering with my task manager, and various tricks to force my system to shut down tasks, unregister .dll files and delete pesky files. After about five hours or so of bashing my head against the invaders on my computer, I was about ready to strangle someone, but I keot plugging away, since the options were either cleanup or "give up, revive the desktop, and wipe the laptop so I can start from scratch".
Eventually, I was forced to delve into the bowels of my laptop and diddle with the registry--which, let me tell you, isn't very fun at all. It was like performing open heart surgery with a chainsaw and the Jaws of Life, and after the 7th hour of hunting down and purging malware from my computer, I started getting loopy. I started talking like Governor Ahnold and telling each individual piece of horrifically persistent malware "Sahf Side Kick 3... you hoff bean tahmeenated!"
At around hour 10, I managed to convince Hodge-Podge and Sogarth to come and work their tricksy hobbit magics on my poor Alienware, and as we all gathered around my laptop, I could swear that I heard the opening strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra coming from somewhere.
Then someone hit me upside the head and told me to quit singing, and I realized it was me. But the comparison had been made, and we all picked up our bones and started bashing them against the computerized monolith.
Three hours later, we'd managed to get my box in workable condition again--though it's still waiting for Hodge-Podge to come by with his USB CD drive so we can wipe it clean and reinstall windows. But hey, until I back up my files and raze it all, it's usable and isn't endangering me, which is all I can ask for.
The moral of this story is: Dom isn't very good at this whole "computer maintenance" thing.
Well, the lesson is also "patch your computer, and if a patch doesn't officially exist yet, FIND IT". But that isn't nearly self-mocking enough. So I'll stick with my original lesson.
Don't let this happen to you. I can't stress enough how important it is to stay up to date with the lastest patches for your browser and operating system... not just your games!